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According to the free dictionary sentence stress means “the variation emphasis or vocal stress on the syllables of words within a sentence” (14). The authors of the book “English Intonation” suggest distinguishing three main functional types of sentence-stress: syntagmatic, syntactic, and logical (2; 120). Before giving their definition it is important to understand the structure of the sentence. Sentence can consist of one or more words of semantic value. One-word sentences are always stressed, e.g. Great! What? Thanks. Group-word sentences are made of a phrase or several phrases; we can also say that these sentences consist of one or several thought groups or sense-groups that have “syntactical and notional unity”. (6; 24) These phrases or sentences contain words which differ in their prominence - some stressed more than others, some unstressed. Sentence stress follows the same principle as word stress. (15), e.g.
Cel-e-`bra-tion. He can `men-tion. Division of the words into stressed and unstressed depends on their semantic value degree in a particular phrase or a sentence. Usually the words that are stressed are the ones bearing lexical meaning. These words are called content words – the words that carry the basic meaning of the sentence. They tell the reader or the listener what is happening, who or what is involved in the action; what kind of things are involved, and where or when it happened (7). There are some exceptions. First of all at more rapid tempo, the number of lexical words will be unstressed, e.g. He went to the `store at `4 PM. Secondly, repeated lexical items are not generally stressed or “can be hear in items which are direct equivalents” (5; 115), e.g. Are you `fond of `chocolate then? `Given the `chance, I’ll `eat `tons of the stuff. Sometimes the position of the strong stress changes according to the stress of neighboring word in the sentence especially with double-stressed words e.g. unknown (both syllables generally have strong stress) which are grammatically connected with a following strongly stressed word. In such cases the second strong stress is weakened, e.g. The `unknown `land. If the double-stressed word is preceded by strongly stressed word, the first strong stress is weakened, e.g.
`Quite un`known. (1; 141)
The words that do not carry the heavy stress are called function words (sometimes they are also called structure words, form words, or grammatical words) which indicate “how the information expressed by the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs relate or function in regard to each other in the grammatical structure of the discourse” (7). For example, if we know the grammar rules well it is easy to predict function word(s) expected in a sequence before of after the content word (10) e.g.
--- --- know --- time --- --- ? No, --- don’t. What --- --- say?
Do you know what time is it? No, I don’t. What did you say?
However there are also some exceptions when function words receive stress (1; 141. 12):
1) Absolute possessive pronouns, e.g. If I can't find my pen, I'll take yours.
2) Demonstratives, e.g. It was only about this high
3) Wh-words which form questions, e.g. Why are you working so late?
4) Auxiliary and modal verbs introducing general questions, e.g. Are you sure? Can I?
5) Indicate a contrast or intensity, e.g. I gave her a ride, not him. That was very ju`dicious.
Not at all! I should call it very `injudicious.
6) Comparative emphasis, e.g. “I `don’t `think I can `do it.” “But `I `think you `can do it.”
7) When cited, e.g. How do you spell “upon”?
In English, compare to Russian language, there are much more function words, e.g.
A `schoolboy, `who had been `working a good `deal at a rith`metics, `came `home one `summer for his `holiday (10 unstressed words).